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Abandoning PSA Screening Could Cost Lives: Study
Date:7/30/2012

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, July 30 (HealthDay News) -- In the wake of a widely publicized report advising against prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing for prostate cancer, a new study finds not screening would triple the number of U.S. men developing advanced cancer.

Testing, on the other hand, might keep some 17,000 men each year from receiving a diagnosis of late-stage prostate cancer -- cancer that has spread and is far less curable -- the study finds.

"PSA testing, for all its pluses and minuses and all that . . . permits you to catch the disease earlier," said lead researcher Dr. Edward Messing, chair of urology at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, N.Y.

"These people are all going to die, they are going to die incredibly expensively and die miserably," he said, referring to the many men whose diagnoses would be delayed by not testing. "I don't know that all these people could be saved with PSA testing," but many could, he added.

The report was published online July 30 in the journal Cancer.

Messing said the annual number of prostate cancer deaths dropped from about 42,000 in the 1990s to 28,000 now. "The only thing that can explain that is PSA early detection and treatment," he said.

Many cases of prostate cancer are not life-threatening, which is why testing is controversial. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) in May recommended against routine PSA screening, saying too many non-lethal cancers were being treated aggressively, exposing men who didn't need treatment to serious side effects such as impotence and urinary incontinence.

But Messing disagreed with that advice. Condemning PSA testing "wasn't a brilliant conclusion," he said.

For the new study, Messing's team compared information from the U.S. Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results database for the years 1983 to 1985 -- immediately before wid
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